By Sam McPherson

The San Francisco 49ers are slowly returning to healthy form this week as they prepare to take on the New York Giants on the road in a nationally televised Sunday Night Football matchup. The 49ers are coming off three straight losses and will look to break that slide against Eli Manning and his teammates this weekend.

Five players are listed with questionable status for the game, including two tight ends. The 49ers passing game is ranked dead last in the NFL this year, and having to use the third- and fourth-string TEs will continue to stunt the team’s ability to throw the ball effectively.

After missing last week’s home game against the Green Bay Packers, TE Vernon Davis (knee) was limited in practice this week on both Wednesday and Thursday. If his progress continues positively, Davis could see the field on Sunday night. Likewise, backup Vance McDonald (chest) was inactive for the Packers game and also saw limited action in workouts this week.

Both players could be game-time decisions. Tight ends Garrett Celek and Blake Bell would be in line again to get all the snaps on offense for the 49ers at the position if Davis and McDonald are still unable to make a go of it against the Giants.

Also damaging the chances of the offense busting out through the air is a concussion injury to No. 3 wide receiver Quinton Patton. He is still listed as questionable as he makes his way through the NFL’s protocol for clearance. But after not practicing on Wednesday, Patton did see some limited action on Thursday in workouts. That’s a positive sign for both him and the team.

Defensively, starting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder) did not practice this week. Starting inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (non-injury related) did miss Wednesday’s workouts, too, although he returned on Thursday to being a full participant in practice. If Brooks can’t go on Sunday in New York, then Corey Lemonier will get the nod in his place.

Third-string strong safety L.J. McCray was limited in workouts both days this week, and he might not see the field a lot under normal circumstances anyway. However, depth matters in the NFL, and if McCray can’t go, it leaves the safety position thinner than usual. Against Manning at quarterback and the Giants’ strong WRs group, that could spell trouble if the 49ers are unlucky with game-time injuries on Sunday night.

This game is huge for the 1-3 San Francisco team as it tries to rebound from the previous three losses—none of which were close. If the 49ers are unable to slow down Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, they would find themselves with a 1-4 start with four more tough games on the schedule before the bye week comes in Week 10.

San Francisco can’t afford too many injuries—or losses—if the team wants to turn this ship around soon and make the playoffs again.

Probable:
NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker (non-injury related)

Questionable:
Ahmad Brooks, Linebacker (non-injury related, shoulder)
Vernon Davis, Tight End (knee)
L.J. McCray, Safety (knee)
Vance McDonald, Tight End (chest)
Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver (concussion)

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.

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